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'We don't know where to go...how to start life again'
December 27, 2004 14:13 IST
It will take a long time for the people of the picturesque coastline in Kollam to overcome the shock of the nightmare caused by the killer waves that claimed over 100 lives in the densely populated fishing hamlets of the district.
In a string of sea-facing villages in Karunagappaly taluk, there was hardly anyone who was not bereaved.
"It all happened in a flash. Before one could come to know what it actually is, furious waves had taken away all we have... our kith and kin, small savings, thatched huts and fishing equipment. We don't know where to go and how to start again," said Francis from Azhikkal.
What awaited 39-year-old Sajeevan when he returned from fishing on Sunday was the shocking news that his wife and daughter had been swallowed by surging waves.
A long strip of huts near Vallikkavu had remained cut off for several hours before rescuers arrived in boats to take out bodies and move the survivors to safer places.
Frightened by the surging waters, many people had shut themselves up in their houses, which exposed them to greater danger than those who sought to escape the surging waters by running away, local people said.
The true dimensions of the tragedy would be known only when all these houses are opened, rescuers said.
The immediate problem staring the survivors is the conduct of the funeral of their relatives who died in the tragedy. Many of those staying in the relief camps were not in a position to receive the identified bodies, as they had no place to take them for a decent burial. Karunagappaly panchayat is making arrangements for mass burial as the only way out in the situation.
The tsunamis began to hit the area around 10.30 am on Sunday. The first report of the calamity came in from Thangassery near Kollam town, but it soon became evident that villages along the Karunagapally coast were the worst hit.
As the narrow brittle roads linking hamlets with nearby towns got washed away, rescuers had to walk up to reach the danger zones.
The hospitals around were also caught unawares as injured kept on pouring in by noon. In many places, doctors and paramedics on Christmas holidays had been summoned urgently.
About 30,000 people have been shifted to relief camps as entire coastal villages were wiped out by the waves.
Sharing the grief of their brethren, people from all communities and walks of life are coming forward to lend a helping hand.
A naval team is overseeing relief operations.
The entire district is observing a self-imposed hartal to mourn the tragedy and all public functions and post-Christmas festivities have been cancelled.